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What Does Poverty Look Like in Dance?

Six celebrated choreographers explore poverty through dance

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Six celebrated choreographers will explore the complex issue of poverty through dance and spoken word in “Occupy Dance 2013.” The production’s seven performances close out the winter quarter at the Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) at Northwestern University. 

Under the artistic direction of Northwestern faculty member Annie Arnoult Beserra, “Occupy Dance 2013” will feature the choreography of Beserra, Lizzie Leopold, David Lakein, Susan A. Lee, Stephanie Paul and Billy Siegenfeld, with special guest artists from the Chicago-based dance company Jump Rhythm Jazz Project (JRJP).

Open to the public, performances will take place 8 p.m. Friday, March 1; 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7; 8 p.m. Friday, March 8; 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus.

A series of vignettes with spoken word pieces throughout, “Occupy Dance 2013” examines the ways the individual and collective body respond, resist and show signs of resilience in moments of economic crisis. Through dance theatre, contact improvisation and hip-hop, each of the pieces will address such questions as who is impoverished, what does poverty mean and what fantasies and myths of the body have fears of economic hardship produced. 

Highlights of the 2013 program include the 20th anniversary revival of JRJP’s “Getting There,” choreographed by Northwestern faculty member and JRJP founder and artistic director Billy Siegenfeld. “This piece originated at Northwestern 20 years ago in a show called ‘Danceworks,’” said Beserra. “It’s a championing of the collective; it’s joyous resilience with some attack to it. We’re very excited to bring it back as the show’s finale.” 

Northwestern Ph.D. student Lizzie Leopold, founder and artistic director of the Chicago-based modern dance company Leopold Group, will collaborate with Beserra on “The Shadow,” which looks at the mythic images of heroes that arose in the Depression era. 

Berlin- and Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist David Lakein’s work will use the relationship of bodies to physical landscapes and space to examine the Occupy movement, an international protest campaign against social and economic inequality.

Stephanie Paul, artistic director of Chicago-based dance company Be the Groove, will explore what it means to be creatively impoverished and what happens when environments are devastated in “resilient by design.” (Editor’s note: the lower-cased title is correct, as shown.) 

Throughout “Occupy Dance,” Northwestern faculty member Susan A. Lee, founding director of the School of Communication’s dance program, will direct students in spoken word performances that comment on the issues of each piece. 

“This show serves as an entry point for people who are not traditionally dance audiences,” said Beserra. “We are creating a space that allows the audience to feel welcomed, identify with familiar emotions and be in dialogue with the art that is happening on the stage.” 

“Occupy Dance” will feature 17 Northwestern student dancers who also have contributed to the show’s choreography and a creative team that includes Chicago-based sound designer Nick Keenan, Northwestern staff member and projections designer Peter Anderson and Northwestern second-year MFA students Lindsey Lyddan (lighting) and Alexis De Forest (costumes). 

Single tickets are $10 to $25; tickets for groups of eight or more are $8 to $22 each; $5 are available exclusively to Northwestern students with valid IDs on advance ticket purchases only. Tickets are available through the TIC Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or

CONSTRUCTION ALERT: A three-year construction project underway on the southeast end of the Northwestern University campus has closed Arts Circle Drive to traffic. Free parking for evening and weekend events remains available, but the project impacts handicapped parking and patrons requiring special access to Evanston campus theaters, as the parking structure is not accessible to patrons unable to climb stairs. UPDATE: Through March 15, 2013, the northwest stairwell in the parking structure across from the Theatre and Interpretation Center will be closed. All visitors and audience members must exit the garage from the north-central stairwell and take the stairs leading up to the Louis and Barber theaters. For the most current information on the construction project and drop-off locations for patrons requiring special access to our theaters, visit

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